Guest post by Brenda with the Rusk Geodesic Eco-Dome
During Spring Break last March, I was perusing the internet for grant opportunities for a crazy idea to build a geodesic dome greenhouse at my school, when I came across something I had never heard of before: State Farm Cause An Effect (now known as Neighborhood Assist), a program awarding 40, $25,000 grants to local causes. It was very different from the usual grant applications; in fact it seemed almost too good to be true. It took me less than 10 minutes to complete the entire application! This was amazing to me because most educational grant applications seem to be endless to someone like me who doesn’t like to write. My only hesitation was the fact that the grant winners would be chosen by voters on Facebook, but considering I truly believed I had a worthwhile idea and there would be 40 winners I took the chance and pushed the send button.
I have to admit, I totally forgot that I applied for this grant. A few weeks later I noticed an email at school from State Farm which I immediately deleted because I figured it was some type of advertisement. A few days later another email showed up from State Farm, I glanced at the opening line which said, “Again, congratulations….” That caught my eye and I was thrilled to find out that my application had been chosen as one of the final 100 (this year’s program will have 200 finalists).
After checking with my principal for his support, I proceeded to make a game plan on how to get votes. Most of my students do not have internet access at home and many were not old enough to have a Facebook account. Another problem was that the school district blocks Facebook. Even worse, was the fact that we weren’t able to vote using cell phones, though I was glad to hear State Farm took this feedback and made this year’s program very mobile-friendly.
In spite of everything, my students and I never gave up! And I definitely came up with some “out of the box” ways to get votes including emailing one of my competitors to ask him if he would send some votes our way the last three days of voting when we were just barely in 38th place. We even walked several times over a two-week period to local businesses asking them to cast votes for us using our iPads. My motivation was strong because I knew that my “geodesic dome greenhouse” idea would be an incredible addition to my school and the surrounding community. The idea behind the greenhouse is to provide an opportunity for students (6-8 graders) to grow organic food which they will then donate to the Family Homeless Shelter a few blocks away. My students are low-income inner city kids who really need an opportunity where they can give their time and energy to help others in the community. The greenhouse will give them a chance to give of themselves, as well as help them learn about organic foods, nutrition, solar energy, and something really interesting – solar air conditioning. The dome will be a science lab for all the students in my school. It was so rewarding to see all that hard work to promote our cause pay off – we ended up in the top 40 and received $25,000 in assistance from State Farm to make this wonderful project a reality!
As of this date, we have purchased a 22-foot geodesic dome from Growing Spaces in Colorado and we are currently waiting for a building permit from the city so that we can proceed with construction of the dome. We are fortunate in that we have a lot of support from our local neighborhood businesses and community as well as a local church group. My students are looking forward to building the dome and growing vegetables as well as learning how to maintain and take care of the greenhouse. We are even considering growing plants on the outside wall of the new middle school building, which is currently under construction.
This $25,000 grant and the project is providing my school community with something really amazing. This project will be a valuable part of the neighborhood for many, many years to come. And something my students will remember for the rest of their lives. I am so grateful to State Farm for providing such a wonderful opportunity to communities and neighborhoods everywhere!